Laguna Cerro Castillo day hike is one of the most stunning hikes in Chile’s Aisén Region of Patagonia. We spent a few weeks driving around Patagonia in December and January 2022/2023 and almost missed this hike which would have been a bummer. It rates up there with the hike to the Base of the Towers in Torres del Paine and Fitz Roy in El Chalten.
This guide includes tips on how to get to the trailhead, what to expect on the trail, when to go, and multi-day options if interested in extending this beautiful Laguna Cerro Castillo day hike.
where is Cerro Castillo National Park
Cerro Castillo is accessible from the small village called Villa Cerro Castillo, located on the iconic Carretera Austral approximately 60 miles south of Coyhaique- Aisén Region’s capital. You can either stay at Villa Cerro Castillo or Coyhaique when exploring this National Park.
Day hikes or multi-day hikes are an option at Cerro Castillo National Park.
Laguna Cerro Castillo Day Hike Information
Distance: 8 miles (13 km)
Elevation: 3576 ft (1090 m)
Parking: Since you can start this hike at multiple different locations, parking lot is available at each location. See section – Getting to the Trailhead.
Facilities: At the park entrance and at the 5 km mile marker on the hike.
Entrance Fee: 18,000 CLP ($22.50) for visitors
Last Entrance Time: 12:00 pm (noon)
Trail Sign: Yellow upside down triangles and red mile markers
Getting to the Trailhead for Laguna Cerro Castillo Day Hike
When in the village (Villa Cerro Castillo) heading north on Ruta 7 (Carretera Austral), turn slight left shortly after Visitor’s Center and follow the signs to get on the X-720 dirt road. The road follows River del Bosque.
There are two trailheads for this hike. One is private and one is the official National Park entrance. Once you cross the bridge while driving on X-720 to your left you will see a wide opening, a parking lot, and to your right another dirt road going up to the little shack. That is a private entrance.
If you stay on X-720 you will start seeing official signs for Cerro Castillo National Park as well as the signs stating that 4WD is necessary to continue. There is a steep hill with pretty big ruts in the road that requires 4WD. However, before the hill, there is a small widened area where you can park if you don’t have a 4WD. Walking from here to the entrance adds 3.5 miles out and back to the hike.
At the park entrance there is a parking area.
We used the official National Park entrance and that is the experience detailed in this post.
Laguna Cerro Castillo Day Hike Trail
To our surprise, this was the only hike where once we paid the entrance fee and signed our name in the registry someone spent time to explain to us what to expect on the trail, trail conditions, return times and provided us with the emergency contact information. This was our 4th time in South America and no one has ever provided this information to us for any of the hikes we did. It caught us by surprise.
The important thing to know about this hike is that for a day hike, you cannot start after noon and you are supposed to start the descent from the laguna by 16:00. We tried to do this hike day before. We were driving from Puerto Guadal to Coyhaique and were going to stop and do this hike on the way. However, due to road construction and just general conditions of driving on Carreta Austral, we didn’t make it to the trailhead until 14:00 and they wouldn’t let us start.
We only had a couple of days left in Patagonia and had the Cerro Castillo day hike and Hanging Glacier viewpoint on our list of things to do. Unfortunately, we had to choose between the two as we ran out of time to do both, and I am so glad we picked the Laguna Cerro Castillo day hike.
The hike starts with a steep climb right away. First 2 to 3 km, most of the hike is through the forested area and what feels like private property, as we had to climb over a couple of step ladders to get over fences. On this part of the hike, you will also see cows roaming around.
Once out of the tree line, the sun becomes very intense very quickly. Make sure you bring sun protection with you. The beginning of the hike felt a little crowded, but by the time we reached the 2 km mark we were the only ones on the trail. And would only occasionally see a hiker or two until the summit.
The trail is very steep, dusty, and slick. There are sections with exposed big boulders and chains to hold on to, so you don’t slip. However, the higher you climb the more views behind you become stunning. The endless beauty of snow-capped mountain peaks and lakes,
Along the trail, there are water streams and during our debrief at the entrance we were told that it is safe to drink water once approximately 2 km into the hike (after the cow pastures). We even saw an AGUA sign on the trail.
Close to the 5 km marker, there is a Cerro Castillo National Park sign on one side of the trail and on the other side a restroom which we missed going up.
After 4 miles and 3500 ft of the brutal climb, you will find yourself at the laguna with Cerro Castillo in the background. We were overwhelmed with the similar type of satisfaction and beauty as we were when we saw the Towers on the W Trek, and Fitz Roy. As one of our friends said as we were sitting at the base of Fitz Roy; ‘This is what being rich means.’
We found a rock to sit on, ate our lunch, and enjoyed the view for about 30 minutes.
We thought the hard part was over, but coming back was even trickier. A lot more people were coming up and the steep trail was very slick.
Other Hiking Options
There are many other options to make this multi-day hike.
You can start at Estero Parada trailhead, less than a mile away from Laguna Cerro Castillo trailhead, and hike up to Laguna Duff. Spend the night at campsite Porteadores and hike to Laguna Cerro Castillo and back to the entrance point the next day.
You can also make this a 4-day Cerro Castillo Circuit. There are no services in the park so you have to be self-sufficient and bring all the supplies with you. This is a great, and less crowded alternative to W Trek.
Tip for Bes Experience when Hiking to Laguna Cerro Castillo
Leave No Trace. Pack out what you pack into the park.
Wear hiking shoes. The trail is rocky, it can also be muddy or dry and dusty depending on the weather and proper footwear is crucial.
Hiking poles were crucial for us. They help with steep and slippery descend and save the knees on the way down.
Sun protection is a must. Once out of the tree line, there is little to no shade and it is important to have sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and other clothing as needed to protect you.
Water and food. Bring enough water and food for the entire hike. However, you can refill the water using the streams along the hike.
Layer your clothing. The most important clothing for any Patagonia hiking is wind and waterproof jacket and then layering underneath. Wind can be brutal.
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